WORTHINGTON -- Young teen-age ballplayers don’t often play mistake-free baseball. But though the Worthington Junior Legion players weren’t perfect Thursday night in its 9-5 victory over Marshall Black at the local middle school field, they were impressive in all areas.
Good pitching, timely hitting, smart base running, a couple of outstanding defensive plays, and an absence of mental mistakes impressed even their coach, TD Hostikka, who isn’t easily satisfied.
“It was the first time, or maybe the second time we didn’t build a hole early. Because Marshall is a good team. They’re always a good team,” Hostikka said.
The red-shirted Junior Legionnaires have often gotten off to slow starts, but they got off to a fast start on Thursday, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning off Marshall Black starting pitcher Jacob Eben without getting a hit.
Struggling to find the plate, Eben walked the first three Worthington hitters, then surrendered a pair of runs on ground outs to second base. The third run scored on a wild pitch.
Marshall’s Connor Neubeck drilled a two-out two-run double off Worthington pitcher Blake Ahrenstorff in the third, but Worthington got one of them back in the bottom of the inning on Cooper McCoy’s two-out RBI single.
A four-run fifth inning put Worthington up 8-3. Jake Brandner got things rolling with a one-out single off the glove of Eben, then he stole second base. Coy Turner then doubled. Isaiah Noble singled and went to second when the Marshall center fielder briefly misplayed his hit.
In what was the best piece of base running seen all night, Noble -- getting a huge lead off second base -- broke for third when Eben attempted a pick-off throw. He slid head-first into the bag and was safe, then scored on a McCoy base hit. Moments later, McCoy scored the team’s eighth run on an infield ground out.
Ahrenstorff went the distance for Worthington, allowing just six hits. He walked two and struck out nine.
The lanky right-hander relied mostly on his fastball against Marshall Black, but he also threw a lot of sliders.
“He has matured and grown as a pitcher in the two years I’ve coached him,” Hostikka said. “He commands his pitches, and he doesn’t just hope it goes over the plate. He is a pitcher.”
The Worthington team has one more regular season game remaining on the schedule. It will be Monday at 6 p.m. in Worthington against Marshall Orange.